Nov 06, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
So here were the West Genesee Wildcats, on the campus at Cicero-North Syracuse, celebrating a historic Section III championship performance that was high on drama and excitement and went down to the final play.
Only this was girls volleyball, not football. But the same truth remained — the Wildcats finished on top, and this time, the feat was unprecedented.
For the first time, West Genesee is a sectional volleyball champion, having fought past undefeated, two-time defending champion Baldwinsville last Monday night at the CNS gymnasium in a five-game epic where the margin between victory and defeat was small — but signifcant.
As joyous celebration raged all around him, Clark Martin, the Wildcats’ head coach for more than a decade, said this was the culmination of a long journey paved by fine WG teams of earlier years that could not quite get this far.
“The past teams’ hard work and dedication is what got us to this point,” he said. “It’s a great accomplishment. These young ladies deserve everything they’ve got.”
Jill Cleland, one of the key cogs of the Wildcats’ front line, said an all-out effort was required to pull this out.
“It’s rally exciting to win this,” she said. “We just left everything out there on the court.”
The seed of this title win was planted back on Sept. 10, at Baker High School, where the Wildcats took the Bees to five games before coming up just short.
When B’ville won a one-sided rematch 10 days later in Camillus, it appeared that the old order, with the Bees on top (it had won seven of the previous nine sectional championships), had been preserved.
WG shook that off, though, and was perfect the rest of the regular season, then ripped through playoff opponents CNS and Central Square as B’ville was doing the same to Utica Proctor and Oswego.
Clearly, the two best teams in AA girls volleyball had reached the final match. The question was whether WG was ready for the kind of stage the Bees had owned for so long.
The answer was immediate — and emphatic.
Midway through the opening game, the Wildcats led 13-6, and even though B’ville rallied and went in front 16-15, WG stayed cool, exchanged points until it was 22-22, then put home the last three points on key shots from Cleland and Morgan McDermott to win, 25-22.
This gave the Wildcats an early cushion against the Bees’ response in the second game. Trailing all the way, WG stayed within a handful of points, but could not quite catch up as B’ville took that game 25-23 to even the match.
And the word “even” is a good term, for over the next two games, WG and B’ville found it completely impossible to separate from each other.
A terrific third game featured 13 ties. Down 8-3, the Wildcats caught up, then engaged in a long, tense exchange until, at 22-22, WG earned two crucial points that proved to be the difference as, by a 25-23 margin, it went up 2-1 in games.
Somehow, the fourth game proved to be even closer as, after a quick 3-0 edge, WG was caught and settled into yet another tense exchange, one that involved 15 ties.
The Wildcats drifted within two points of victory and were ready to celebrate — but B’ville got the serve back and, on its lone game point, held it. It was the third consecutive 25-23 game, and now the match would go to the wire.
Extreme as it all was, the specter of a fifth and final game with a sectional title on the line did not rattle the Wildcats’ confidence.
“I wasn’t nervous,” said Martin. “I just told them that they needed to be aggressive.”
That aggression was present even after B’ville went up 10-5. WG answered with a 9-1 run to go in front, watched the Bees tie it 15-15 then went back ahead and kept the margin at two to three points.
At 24-22, WG earned a match point, only to have Lauren Hartman put away a kill to keep the match alive. On the next point, though, the Wildcats earned its own spike — and with it, the sectional banner.
McDermott had a remarkable night, earning 21 kills and three blocks, as Cleland helped out with 14 kills. Lauren Hopkins had nine kills and Melissa Hildebrandt put up five kills.
On the back line, Katie Griffin worked as the libero, playing superb defense in between setters Chelsea Sedlacek and Carly Graham. Sedlacek had 22 assists and three aces, whie Graham did even better, with 28 assists. For B’ville, Hartman led with 25 kills and nine blocks as Laura Galvin gained 22 assists.